California Just Made A Huge Step Towards Closing The Gender Pay Gap

The Golden State already ranks ahead of 43 states in terms of gender parity in the workplace

Oct 06, 2015 at 3:57 PM ET

California legislators just gave women a huge helping hand to overcome the gender pay gap.

The Fair Pay Act, passed Tuesday, prohibits Californian employers from paying any employee a lesser wage than employees of the opposite sex earn for work that’s substantially similar—not just for equal work or the same job title, which was already against the law.

California had the seventh smallest gender pay gap of any state in 2014. That’s not saying much, as women there were still paid just 84.1cents for every dollar earned by a man, according to the Washington, D.C.-based National Women’s Law Center.

The gap was narrowest in D.C., where women were paid 89.5 cents for every dollar a man made, more than ten cents more than the nationwide average of 78.6 cents. The data, based on earnings of full-time, year-round workers and calculated from 2014 American Community Survey Data, showed Louisiana fared the worst: Women there earned just 65.3 cents on the dollar compared to their male co-workers in the Pelican State.

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The California bill introduced by Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) allows employees to file complaints if they are paid less than others doing similar work in their own workplace, even if they are based at a different work site. It also prohibits employers from punishing staff who ask about wages paid to coworkers.

Under the legislation, which will take effect from January 1, 2016, an employer sued by a worker must prove that a wage difference is due to factors besides gender and is not due to discrimination.